Love Lies Bleeding


By: Jolie Featherstone

Filmmaker Rose Glass follows up her sharp horror film Saint Maud with Love Lies Bleeding – a grimy, sexy, wild ride. A stylistic and psychedelic blend of self-aware Americana meets noir, Glass delivers a heady acid trip of a love story.

Love, sex, and crime are abound in a run-down, desert town in the USA.  A happening spot in this town is the locally-owned gym where peroxide-bottle-blonde and authentically distressed tank tops drape sweat-sheened muscle.  When Lou (Academy Award nominee Kristen Stewart), the mysterious manager of the gym, first lays eyes on Jackie (Katy M. O’Brian, in a scene-stealing turn), a tough drifter with a shadowy past en route to a bodybuilding competition in Vegas, there’s an instant allure.  Lou gravitates toward Jackie;  there’s a magnetic pull between the two of them.  Soon the couple are forced to deal with a dangerous undercurrent running through the town.  In a violent race against time, their love is put to the test. 

Love Lies Bleeding is a feast for the eyes.  Glass, notably from the UK, and cinematographer Ben Fordesman find an irresistible beauty in cigarette-burnt, working class American iconography.  However, this iconography and aesthetic is not played for surface enjoyment.  Think of the historical debate as to whether film noir constitutes an aesthetic or a genre.  Along with stylistic visuals, film noir pictures always hold a self-awareness, a recognition, a certain jaded disillusionment with the American dream.  Glass does similar work in Love Lies Bleeding.  There is a questioning of certain American qualities, but also a curiosity, a cautious embracing.  Despite the nefarious and illicit activities, the guns and violence, the misogyny and bigotry, the film adheres to a fierceness in the belief in and loyalty to love, family, and following one’s heart. 

Love Lies Bleeding blends a sensory experience with a metaphorical one.  From the heart-pumping retro soundtrack to the visual representation of medicinally-induced euphoria, the film takes us on a visceral journey.  The film starts in a very grounded state and then, as it progresses to the second half, it becomes more fantastical.  In the film’s final act, things take a turn for the surreal – as if we’re tethered to reality and we’ve been pitching farther away from Earth.  The final act loses some of the beauty of the first half’s grit.  That said, it’s brilliantly devious in how it leads us to a feeling of satisfaction, only for the final shot to make us question whether this truly is a “happy ending.” 

Kristen Stewart and Katy M. O’Brian are exceptional.  They disappear into their characters.  O’Brian in particular is bewitching. Her performance is bold and authentic.  The film is supported by an A-list cast: Ed Harris, Jena Malone, Dave Franco.  The film reminds me of a comic book, along the lines of Garth Ennis’ Preacher series where the characters are larger than life.  There is not a holistic origin story to make us sympathize for the evil-doers.  In Love Lies Bleeding, villains are allowed to be deeply villainous. 

Like a neo-Western mash-up of the Wachowski sisters’ cult classic Bound and the TV series Dark Side of the Ring, with sprinkles of film noir, Love Lies Bleeding is unlike anything you’ve seen on screen lately. With her sophomore feature, Rose Glass solidifies herself as a generational talent with a ferocious energy and a dedicated vision.


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